Gavin Corey, the Earl of Thornbrook, has shed his rakish ways in the hope of winning Lady Louisa Adair's heart, but he's not exactly a suitable match. He convinces her to help him find a family treasure by proposing a wager: if he finds the jewels, she must allow him to court her. But if she does, he has to reveal the secret he's keeping from her...
Lady Louisa might be the most sought after lady on the marriage mart, but she values her independence and doesn't want to give up her inheritance to marry. But as she spends more time with the charming earl, she begins to wonder if he's worth the risk. That all changes when she's confronted with the scandal from his past...
Each book in the How To series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 How to Beguile a Duke
Book #2 How to Bewitch an Earl
Book #3 How To Bewilder a Lord
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About the Author
Ally lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, five dogs, a cat, a rabbit, a parrot, and several reptiles. Oh, and her husband. She likes to curse in Russian and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance and middle grade/young adult fantasy.
You can find Ally on her website, Facebook, and Twitter (though she makes no claims of using any of them properly).
Read an Excerpt
How to Bewilder a Lord
How To Series
By Ally Broadfield, Robin Haseltine
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Ally Broadfield
All rights reserved.
Gavin Corey, the Earl of Thornbrook, was known amongst society as a rake. Though he had deserved the designation at one time, those few who were close to him knew the truth. He had fallen desperately in love with Lady Louisa Adair, the youngest daughter of the formidable Duke of Boulstridge, and had immediately shed his roguish ways. However, despite his best efforts to reform, he was unable to escape the preconceived notions of society, and therefore had no luck convincing the lady of his sincerity in pursuing her. The object of his desire was across the ballroom dancing with yet another of her admirers. With her mother's emerald-green eyes and dark auburn hair, she was the most beautiful woman in the room. Of course, she was always the most beautiful woman in the room no matter where she went. Add to that her natural charm, underlying kindness, and devastating ability to see through his vanity, and it was no wonder he was willing to go to any length to win her hand.
"My lord, is something amiss?"
Reluctantly, he turned away from thoughts of Louisa to address his current dance partner, whom he was quite egregiously ignoring. If it weren't de rigueur, he wouldn't have bothered to dance with other ladies since his heart was quite fixed on Louisa. Still, it wasn't good form to allow his own frustrations to taint Lady Annabelle's evening.
"My apologies, Lady Annabelle. There was an odd reflection against the wall, likely a shadow from these magnificent chandeliers." It was the best excuse he could come up with given the circumstances. London was nearly empty this time of year, with most families off at their country estates. Consequently, the entertainments were not up to par with what one found during the season. It mattered not to him. He was in town only to be near Louisa.
Lady Annabelle scrunched her nose. "What sort of form did you see?"
Thinking quickly, he said, "I can't be certain, but it resembled a large bird."
"Ah, might the shadow have come from Lady Abernathy's bonnet?"
She tilted her head slightly to the left, drawing his attention to a stunningly ugly hat with what looked like a parrot attempting to take flight. "I suppose it must have been." He leaned closer and whispered, "Why would anyone wear that?"
"It is an odd choice for winter to be sure, but have you never seen a bird atop a lady's hat before?"
"I can't say that I have, though to be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn't have noticed. It's not the sort of thing that any man would pay attention to."
Lady Annabelle's eyes were wide. Her mouth opened, but no sound emerged.
"Oh dear. Have I disillusioned you? Was I supposed to pretend that men give a fig about women's fashion?"
She released a long breath. "I suppose not, but surely you ought to at least notice something out of the ordinary."
She had a point. Perhaps if he wasn't single-mindedly focused on Louisa all the time, he would notice other ladies. Including Lady Annabelle, who might at one time have attracted his attention if he hadn't been so hopelessly in love with Louisa. But truly, the only way he was ever going to notice a woman's clothes was if she wasn't wearing any.
Mercifully, their set came to an end and he delivered Lady Annabelle to her mother before seeking out Louisa. Like a horse returning to its stable, he always gravitated to her.
She shot him a heart-stopping smile and his heart thumped erratically. "Did you enjoy Lady Annabelle's company?"
No one was near enough to hear their conversation or she wouldn't have spoken so informally to him. "As a matter of fact, I did. She's an excellent conversationalist and even made a quip about Lady Abernathy's ridiculous bonnet."
"It is ghastly, isn't it? I keep expecting the poor parrot to fly from her head and seek its freedom."
All of the ladies in the Adair family were staunch animal lovers.
"Quite. In any case, Lady Annabelle is nearly as delightful as" — he had been about to say 'as delightful as you,' but that wouldn't do — "as your brother's lovely wife."
Thank goodness Lady Kenworth arrived just then to save him from saying more.
"There is nothing whatsoever delightful about me," Isabella responded. "I'm nauseous all the time, will soon be the size of a horse, and I haven't said a kind word to anyone all evening."
Gavin took her hand and kissed the top of her glove. "Nonsense. You are quite the most beautiful woman in the room." The weight of Edward's stare caught his attention and he waved him over to deal with his wife. "See? Even your own husband can't stay away from you."
Edward took her off toward one of the alcoves that lined one side of the ballroom.
"That was kind of you to reassure her," Louisa said. "I'm afraid Isa is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. It will soon be time for us to retire to Walsley."
His stomach dropped. "You will be accompanying Isa during her confinement, then?" She nodded.
He couldn't pursue her if she wasn't in London. He'd have to make the most of the time they had now. So much for his plan to make her realize he was serious about courting her.
"Are you free for the next set?"
"As a matter of fact, I am." She smiled, her beautiful eyes illuminated by the chandeliers, and his heart pitched against his ribs.
He took her hand and led her onto the dance floor. A chill slithered up his neck and he glanced over his shoulder. Louisa's father, the Duke of Boulstridge, glared at him from across the ballroom. Though Gavin was quite well aware that the duke was not overly fond of him, surely he had reformed to the point where His Grace no longer considered him a philanderer. However, there would be time enough to figure out how to gain the duke's favor once he won over Louisa. There was no point in challenging the dragon if the damsel was not in distress.
The music started and they began to move. He ran his thumb across the top of her fingers, and that feeling of rightness, that they belonged together, slammed into him even through both of their layers of gloves. "Have you given any more consideration to my offer?"
"Of course not, because it is not a genuine proposal."
He met her eyes. "I assure you I am quite serious about pursuing you, Louisa. I'll marry you tonight if you'll agree."
Her eyes narrowed. "Yet you flirt with every woman in London. It's difficult to believe in your sincerity."
Her words cut deep. Unfortunately, he could not deny them. He flirted because it made the ladies happy, and because it kept anyone from bothering to look deep enough to see who he really was. "But you are the only woman I've ever proposed to."
"Forgive me, but that isn't enough to change my mind. Also, you haven't yet asked my father for permission to court me. Therefore, you have not made a legitimate offer for me. Should you truly wish to court me, you will have to seek my father's permission."
Excitement surged through him. Was she encouraging him? "I'd have more luck declaring myself the king of England." The duke had a longstanding grudge against him that Louisa knew nothing about, and if he had any hope of ever convincing her to marry him, he had to make sure she never found out. That, and his now undeserved reputation, had kept him from requesting His Grace's permission to court his daughter, but he would have to find a way to convince her family of his respectability in order to win her hand.
She smiled. "Be that as it may, you'll have to win his favor if you wish to court me, and on the off chance you're able to gain his permission, you'll still have to persuade me."
There was nothing he wanted more than to make her his, and despite the fact that a herculean task stood before him, he was willing to take any risk to win her.
Once Louisa left to dance with her next partner, Gavin decided to call it an evening and made his way toward the door. It was time to form a strategy to make the duke warm to him, though the task seemed impossible. The man doted on Louisa. Even back when they had been at school together, Edward complained of his father's blatant favoritism for his youngest daughter. It would be very difficult to convince him to allow her marry anyone, let alone him.
"Leaving so soon?"
"Yes." Edward might be his closest friend, but he wasn't in the mood to trade quips with him, and he could not admit he was in love with his sister. Edward had made it clear on multiple occasions that she was off-limits to him, and though Gavin was fairly certain he could sway Edward's position, this was neither the place nor time to discuss the matter with him. The only person who was currently amenable to the match was Isa, and she would soon be sequestered in the country with Louisa and the rest of their family while he remained in London. Alone.
"May I have a word with you before you go?"
"Of course." He followed his friend down the corridor. Marrying Isa had been the best thing that ever happened to Edward. He had matured overnight, attending Parliament on a regular basis and generally becoming the man his father expected him to be. With no siblings and both of his parents gone, there was no one to care about what Gavin did.
Edward led him into the library and he stopped short. The duke stood near the door, arms crossed. Suddenly, his cravat was extraordinarily constrictive. Perhaps he ought to attempt to slay the dragon now and request permission to court Louisa.
"I have a rather large favor to ask of you," Edward said. "Isa is horribly uncomfortable nearly all of the time now, and her condition will soon become obvious. She has agreed to retire to Walsley, and Louisa will be accompanying her, but I'm afraid I cannot leave London yet." He waved toward his father. "We are still working on the agriculture bill I plan to introduce, and we must call upon some of the more influential members of Parliament to solidify our support before Christmas. And of course, Mother plans to stay in town to serve as our hostess. My parents never like to be apart if they can help it." He winked at his father.
"It sounds as if you have everything well in hand."
Edward nodded. "Except for one thing. We need someone to accompany Isa and Louisa to Walsley, and I was hoping you might be willing."
His pulse raced. This could be it. His chance to show Louisa that he was serious about a match between them, and convince His Grace that he was worthy of her.
The duke took a step forward and glared at him. "I have reluctantly agreed to Edward's plan, but only because there simply isn't anyone else available."
Or perhaps now wasn't the right time to discuss marrying his daughter. He opened his mouth to respond with a sarcastic comment, then bit it back. He had no hope of ever securing the formidable duke's permission to court Louisa unless he could show him that he had matured.
"Though I'm not overly impressed with you — I certainly don't see you in the House of Lords frequently — I concede that you seem to be making some strides toward becoming a productive member of society. Can I trust you with my daughters?"
So it was definitely not the right time to request permission to court Louisa. "Yes, Your Grace."
"Very well. See that you don't disappoint me." He turned away and strode to the window.
Gavin swallowed. The gauntlet had been thrown. This was his opportunity to prove that he was worthy of Louisa, and he could not fail. This was the one and only second chance the duke would allow him.
"Do you remember Lady Concord, Isa's former employer?" Edward asked.
"She'll meet you at Walsley and stay with Isa and Louisa until we are able to return, so you need only to see them safely home, and then you are free to leave." After a long, awkward silence in which he didn't respond, Edward raised his brows. "I know it's a lot to ask of you, but you're the only one I trust with them."
It was a lot to ask of him, but it meant more than Edward would ever know that he trusted him to keep his wife and sister safe.
"Of course. I'm happy to do it, but wouldn't it be better if I stay with them at Walsley until you return? I don't like to think of them on their own." The duke stiffened, but didn't turn back to them.
"I confess I had hoped you might stay, but didn't want to impose in case you had other plans."
"Edward, you know I have nowhere else to go unless I fancy spending Christmas alone at Rosemere."
"Then it is decided."
They shook hands, and he couldn't help but think it likely that the duke was not in agreement with Edward's statement. Nevertheless, it was an unexpected gift for him to be able to spend so much time with Louisa. He would either manage to find a way to win her over, or have to accept that she would never return his love. One way or another, he would get the answers he needed to move forward with his life.CHAPTER 2
The journey to Derbyshire had been uneventful so far. Since all three of them preferred to reach Walsley as quickly as possible, they decided to forego stopping at an inn and instead remained in the carriage aside from a few short breaks to eat and stretch their legs. Though Louisa had thought Thornbrook would keep her entertained during the trip, he had been uncharacteristically quiet, perhaps out of fear of disturbing Isa. They had agreed to share the forward carriage seat so she would have more space to stretch out and also be able to face the front, which apparently helped with her nausea. So far, she had slept through most of the trip. That, combined with Thornbrook's near silence, left Louisa with little to occupy her time.
Since he was absorbed with some sort of portfolio, Louisa took the liberty of watching him. She had known him for as long as she could remember because he had been a friend of Edward's since their first year at Eton. He'd always been a playboy, and with his broad shoulders, dark hair, and striking blue eyes, women flocked to him. Being a solvent earl already in possession of his inheritance helped as well, but for some reason, he had never seriously courted anyone.
His charm and wit attracted her more than his appearance, though he had caused her stomach to flutter more than once when they danced. A lady would have to be blind not to appreciate his physical attributes. They had been thrown together when Edward and Isa paired to locate their great-great-grandmother's missing tiara, and she could admit to herself that she had a fondness for him, but she didn't feel as if she really knew him, even after being acquainted for so many years. It was as if he was an actor on a stage, performing to please everyone while keeping his true self hidden.
Being the daughter of a solvent duke, she had her choice of suitors, but she wasn't certain she wanted to marry. With three brothers and two sisters, there would be plenty of nieces and nephews to dote on, and since she loved it above all else, Papa had offered to leave her Walsley, the estate where she had grown up and still spent all of her time when they weren't in London. The estate was not entailed, and in fact had belonged to her mother's family prior to the title becoming extinct and the property sold. Fighting over Walsley was what had brought her parents together, and she couldn't envisage ever living anywhere else. Every inch of the house and surrounding property was dear to her.
The problem was that in order for her to inherit, her father, due to the family history and time and money he'd devoted to restoring the property, required Louisa to make Walsley her primary residence. It would be extremely difficult to find a man she was attracted to who would also be willing to live on her estate rather than his own.
Other than Papa, no one in her family believed she would eschew marriage to stay with her parents, so she supposed it wasn't surprising that Thornbrook persisted in courting her, given that he didn't know about the stipulation for her to inherit Walsley. Despite the fact that two of her brothers were younger than she was, they all continued to treat her as the baby, as if she couldn't be trusted even to make her own decisions. No one took her seriously, which frustrated her.
At least Thornbrook treated her like the adult she was. It was a pleasure to be with him as he was always ready with a quip or a kind comment to put someone at ease, but regardless of his seeming reformation, it would be unwise to be too trusting of a former philanderer.
As if he could sense her regard, he glanced up, raised an eyebrow briefly, then went back to whatever it was he had been studying so intently. The jolt of excitement his scrutiny had elicited caught her by surprise. He sat facing her with his back wedged into the corner of the seat and kept glancing out the window beside her, then back to his portfolio. It took another moment for her to realize that he was drawing something using colored chalk. She'd had no idea he had any artistic leanings.
Excerpted from How to Bewilder a Lord by Ally Broadfield, Robin Haseltine. Copyright © 2017 Ally Broadfield. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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